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Painting, in lay man’s language is the act of using brushes to apply paint or color on a given surface (Jane, 98). To an artistic eye, painting is more than just the basic application of pigment. Rather, it refers to the end product of a fine creative mind. Graffiti on the other hand refers to letters; images or numbers scratched or painted haphazardly on buildings or other property (Sandrine, 405). Graffiti has no form or process like art does. In fact, lovers of art often view graffiti as a corruption of the rich genius that is art. Painting is an expression of ideas thoughts, values social and physical, political and religious. Graffiti too is a form of expression albeit in a completely different way from the methods of representation to the target audience, context to the quality.
The question is, is it fair to compare these two forms that are alike in so many ways and different in as many ways? The answer is, both graffiti and paintings are all arts in their own different ways, from their and it is not fair to use the same parameters to measure the two as shown below.
First there are very different methods of representation. Graffiti uses different symbols according to the artist. The most common form is ‘tagging’ whereby the artists hand writes their own name or signature. The result is often very shoddy and sloppy work because it is done in a hurry and is often unplanned (Erin, 94). The ‘bombing’ art is done using rollers, is in large blocks of letters and utilizes a range of colors. At least three colors. There is hardly any aesthetic appeal and the main aim of then art is to pass a message across. It is often done by rival groups when they want to outdo themselves (Lou, 200)
Apart from these cheap and easy ways of writing graffiti, there are other modern methods that have come up. The use of stencil graffiti and complex lettering using sophisticated equipment has taken root. Great works of graffiti have been recorded in history in the Middle East and South America. Brazil is one of the countries that pride itself with great graffiti works by people like Boletta, Nina Speto among others (Craig, 467). Painting, uses a more methodical and procedural way of representation. There are numerous ways of styles. They can however be narrowed down to the abstract and action styles. Abstract painting appeals more to the eye and is keen on the visual effects. The painter uses color to reflect different intensities of emotion and aesthetics.
Expressionist painters tend to reach out to those who appreciate order and sequence in life. Action painting which is also called gestural painting is a more random form of art. Paint is splashed or smeared on the surface or on the canvas. The painter concerns himself with the final product rather than the procedure of doing it. (Robert, 67)
The different forms of art appeal to different categories of people. Graffiti is associated with the younger group of people mostly from the town areas. They use the art to communicate with in and also without their circles. Researchers of graffiti suggest that the skill is highly valued in peer circles and the members always try to outdo each other in their prowess and intensity.
The throw up and bombing style is used informally and randomly, in gutter streets and on people’s property while the orderly and more formal stencil graffiti is used in artistically and legally in buildings, social halls and public places. In fact the different forms of graffiti have been employed in the decoration of vehicles and clothing like T-shirts. Only lettering and slogans that are thought to be ‘cool’ are used. Both painting and graffiti convey messages intended. The contradiction arises in the context that the art is used. Painting will always appeal to the senses of a person due to its serene and sober environment. Painters are always taken seriously in the society and are celebrated. Paintings like the Monalissa have received world-wide acclamation and have attracted tourists from the four corners of the world. Their object of attraction, a painting. Other paintings by Michelangelo have received as much, if not more attention. (Max, 456)
What about works of graffiti? Which artist has been acclaimed world over? Why is this? Graffiti may not be taken seriously at all times and is seen as the artists are seen as lacking in seriousness and skill. The environment that graffiti is used does not do much to help the situation. As mentioned earlier, the art is associated with social misfits and rebels. It is an art of those who haven’t defined their lives. It is an art that is limited to a special group of people. Teenagers and young adults. This restricts the appreciation of the art to a limited number of audiences. That is why the skill cannot as infamous as the paintings of the time
In as much as we would like to say that graffiti is less serious art, we realize that graffiti is used to communicate serious messages. Most works are used to set off political bases (Nancy 897) When masses want to protest or go on strike, they seek for a medium of communicating to the authorities. At such times, they result into graffiti. This is the only way that they can express the ideas liberally and without the threat of being accused of breaching law.
Advocators of the graffiti art insist that it is not fair to rate painting and graffiti in the same forum because the environment and dogmas attached to the art, affects the quality of the product. Although the issue may be looked at from different points of views, such as the level of and the seriousness of the artists we might want to agree that graffiti has not been accorded the same attention as painting.
At the bottom line, a lot of thought is often put into the process of graffiti and painting. There a lot of similarities between the two form of art. First and foremost, there is an intended message. The artist uses paint to express themselves. (Gregory, 35) Ideas and emotion that is beyond human comprehension is expressed through art. Less complex ideas are expressed through graffiti. Both arts are expressed on a surface like paper or canvas or stone.
There are also numerous differences in the two forms. One is orderly, formal and widely acceptable. Painting is viewed as aesthetic and great attention and appreciation is shown to well done pieces of paintings. It is a skill that is taught in art schools across the world and practiced as a hobby. Great painters take their time to think and create. Before they pass on, they mentor equally talented people to take over from them. In short, they are a jewel in the society.
On the contrary, graffiti is the less serious art and is not accorded half the respect that is shown to art. It is associated with violence and disrespect. The graffiti artist invades the space of another and defaces their property using unskilled and cheap methods. The practice is illegal and is not encouraged. (Petrie, 508)
The two kinds of art as discussed above deserve their own form of appreciation in their different capacities. Graffiti cannot be undermined as an art merely because it is associated with crime and violence. It is a skill that communicates creatively to the audience. Therefore, at no time should the two kinds of art that is painting and graffiti be put on the same balance.
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